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This page offers stories submitted by extreme cold survivors. These accounts have not been verified. If you survived an extreme cold situation or know someone who did, share your story and help save lives. Please Contact UsPLEASE note that we have permission to print your story online and let us know the town and state and the month and year of the event if possible.

Carol, Killington, VT, and Caldwell, NJ

Many years ago, in the seventies and eighties, when I was an avid skier and in my late 20s, I would ski from the moment the slopes at Killington and Stratton, VT, and at Bellaire, NY, were open at 9am until they closed at 4 pm. I did go in for a quick lunch, but skied passionately all day. On a typical day for me, I stayed out in the wind and cold for about four hours straight. When I entered the cafeteria for lunch, I tried to remove my silk ski balaclava, and part of it was stuck to my upper lip! When I pulled it off, part of my skin peeled off. However, I had no pain. It turned out that I had gotten frostbite on my upper lip. It seemed to heal and the white spot disappeared. Several years later, I developed a basal cell carcinoma on this same spot, which I had surgically removed by a plastic surgeon. I was having so much fun skiing that I became heedless of my own safety.

Years after that first skiing incident resulting in a case of frostbite and skin cancer on my upper lip, I took on a part-time job as a parking enforcement officer. At this point, I was in my 50s and still felt invincible. My very first day of training took place on a frigid and windy day in Caldwell, NJ. I wanted to practice the art of my new job after training all day, so I insisted on walking on one of the routes late in the afternoon and issuing my first ticket. I pursued this for about 2 hours. Later that night, I ended up in the local hospital emergency room with hypothermia. I think after that incident, I finally learned my lesson about being careful in extreme cold and wind!!

Tracy, Gaylord, MI, 2004

My husband and I were skiing in Gaylord, Michigan, that's near the 45th parallel, and the temperature was below freezing. The chairlift was turned off and we were still in a chair in the middle of the air. The wind was very strong up there .I had my ski goggles on and a woolly scarf wrapped around my face but a very small area at the top of my cheek was exposed for about 5 minutes.  By the time the chairlift got going again and we skied back to the lodge, my left cheek had a spot of frost bite. Now 15 years have past and the damage from that day has shown up. About an inch of red blood vessel appears on my check after a bit of sunbathing or when I'm outside in the  cold temps. Take care to wear googles and it's probably better to wear a ski mask when out for more then 2 minutes.

Charles, Upper Michigan, 1995-96

I lived in upper Michigan during the winter of 1995/96. I had experienced cold temperatures before, but nothing like that. I believe that year all of the Great Lakes froze over, our temperatures were getting down towards the -50s, dangerously close to an all-time record low for Michigan. That same year, a place called Tower, Minnesota, bottomed out at -60! During that cold spell, one day I went outside but I was not properly bundled up around the head and left my ears exposed. When I came back inside I had developed an advanced case of frostbite. My ear lobes were actually starting to turn a bluish black. I should have been going to a hospital, but never did. My head hurt and I did not feel well for a few days and for a while, my ears were itching as if they were bit by a mosquito. I did not realize what type of danger I put myself in back then. When the weather forecast calls for cold temperatures, be prepared. But in extreme conditions, such as a cold snap that may occur once in a generation, heed its advice. -30s, -40s, and below is a different kind of cold than when it’s in the teens. It’s the kind of cold that can kill you.


I was on a cross-country ski class overnight trip. The day was gorgeous and sunny, and skiing kept us warm. I wore wool socks and gloves, as recommended, and carried a down sleeping bag. The group had a campfire before turning in for the night, and I did not notice that the snow near where we were sleeping was melted, leaking into my sleeping bag and the bag of another camper near me. We periodically awoke in the middle of the night violently shivering, moved around to warm up and talked to each other to stay calm. Our wool socks kept our feet from freezing. I learned NEVER to use a down sleeping bag (unless it is waterproof) when there is a possibility of it getting wet, because unlike wool or other materials, it becomes useless as an insulator when wet. Also, having a “buddy” is very important in a survival situation.